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Human Rights Developments

Restrictions on freedom of speech, arrests of conscientious objectors, ethnic discrimination and irregularities in election procedures in 1994 marred Kazakhstan's reputation for having a relatively strong human rights record.

The government made strides toward greater protection of free speech in the fall of 1993 by repealing Article 170-3 of the Kazakhstan Criminal Code. It had invoked this article, which protected the dignity and honor of the president, in 1992 and 1993 to silence peaceful criticism of President Nursultan Nazarbaev. However, the government failed to inform pertinent courts promptly of the decision to repeal Article 170-3. Consequently, one person charged under the article, writer Karishal Asanov, remained on trial until December 27, 1993. The government failed to repeal an analogous law, Article 170-4, which protects the honor and dignity of parliamentarians. As a result, the right to legitimately criticize leading public officials remained at risk.

In early 1994 the independent newspaper Karavan printed an article critical of head of the Almaty city administration, Mr. Nurkadilov. Soon after, the government closed the printing shop that published Karavan, suspending publication of all of the newspapers that used it. As a result of this pressure, Karavan later ceased publication in Kazakhstan.

In the absence of a law providing for alternative military service, the government sentenced eighteen Jehovah's Witnesses in the spring to a year of imprisonment for refusing military induction. All but two received suspended sentences: one unidentified man was reportedly confined to a psychiatric hospital and another, Roman Grechko, began serving a one-year prison term on March 30.

Government concern over ethnic tension and the rise of crime also led to violations of the right to association and peaceful assembly. On March 14-16, state police arrested forty people following clashes between Kazakhs and Russian Cossacks in Topolevka and Pokatilovka. Roughly two weeks later, Petropavlovsk law enforcement authorities briefly detained two leaders of the Russian community on the eve of a pro-Russian rally. On April 12, one of them, Boris Supruniuk, the outspoken chairman of the Russian-Speaking Community of Northern Kazakhstan, was jailed in the capital, where they detained him for forty days and forced him to undergo psychiatric examination. According to an article in the weekly periodical Novoe Vremia (No. 22), law enforcement officials offered Mr. Supruniuk his freedom in exchange for a pledge to renounce his political activities.

In December, Justice Ministry Order No. 31 rescinded the registration of all Russian organizations and community groups in Kazakhstan. Leaders of the ethnic Uighur community complained that the government refused the group permission to register.

On May 7, the Ministry of Internal Affairs launched an anti-crime campaign in the capital that allowed the militia to arrest and search individuals arbitrarily. According to the independent Almaty Helsinki Committee, the militia detained 1,500 people on the first day of "Operation Noose (Petlia)" alone; 90 percent were released without charges. Later, the militia reportedly carried out similar operations in other parts of Kazakhstan.

On or around May 16, Almaty militia arrested twelve hunger-strikers who were demanding that the current government step down, and imprisoned five of them for fifteen days for alleged violations of social order. In an April 20 statement, Mr. Zhovtis, a local human rights activist, reported that such government harassment had stopped virtually all public demonstrations in Kazakhstan.

Representatives of the Kazakhstan Procuracy and Ministry of Internal Affairs pledged to stop Uzbekistan security forces from harassing Uzbekistan dissidents on Kazakhstan territory. An official from the Kazakhstan Committee on National Security announced that the Committee had deported two Uzbekistan agents from a human rights conference in Almaty in May in protest. Authorities did not, however, stop Uzbekistan security agents during the summer from arresting three members of the Uzbekistan opposition engaged in peaceful activities in Kazakhstan, and forcing them to return to Uzbekistan.

Kazakhstan enforced the death penalty in 1994, although information about the number of times was not available to us as of this writing.

The Right to Monitor

Although the government failed adequately to protect Uzbekistan activists in Kazakhstan, local activists did not report any impediments to their work.

U.S. Policy

The Clinton administration sent a clear message of support to Kazakhstan in 1994. Stressing security initiatives, Vice-President Gore met with President Nazarbaev in December 1993; in Washington President Clinton met with him in February 1994, and Defense Secretary Perry visited him in Kazakhstan in March. The U.S. also promised to more than triple general aid from $91 million in 1994 to $311 million in 1995. After Kazakhstan signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in December 1993, it began to disarm its nuclear warheads with assistance from $85 million allocated by the United States for that purpose and an additional $15 million for defense conversion.

According to a U.S. official quoted on February 13 in The New York Times, this aid policy aimed "to show we are good to countries that want to reform." Secretary of State Christopher's conclusion that Kazakhstan was "doing everything right" (The Washington Post, October 24, 1993) reflected an unfortunate tendency of the U.S. government to equate acquiescence to U.S. wishes with a satisfactory human rights situation in Kazakhstan. Such a position would ignore the findings of the State Department's own annual report on violations in Kazakhstan, which accurately reported grounds for concern.

The Work of

Human Rights Watch/Helsinki

Our goal in Kazakhstan in 1994 was to gather information on ongoing violations and reinforce contact with the government and local human rights groups. As part of that effort, representatives participated in a human rights conference in May in Almaty.

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